Pandemic worst ever in county; vaccinations lag
COVID-19 infections are surging statewide, but the surge is rampant in Marion County.
The county’s rate is higher than the state average.
“It’s higher than it’s ever been in Marion County,” county health consultant Don Hodson said.
State data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, last updated Monday, show the county has had 2,277 reported COVID cases.
The county’s monthly infection rate continues to exceed the state average, with 2.58% of county residents having gotten COVID compared to 2.04% of state residents in December.
Meanwhile, the county lags in vaccinations, with Marion County’s 48.9% of residents fully vaccinated compared with 59.4% of state residents.
So far, no Omicron variant cases have been detected in the county, but at least 21 samples tested have shown to be Delta variant. Omicron variant COVID is rising in the state and has been detected in both McPherson and Butler Counties.
“Even if they’re vaccinated, they can get Omicron,” Hodson said.
Hodson noted that while COVID numbers are surging, not as many people are dying from the disease as did in the past.
As of Friday, the county health department reported 131 active cases of COVID. That’s up from 112 a week before. Numbers have made a steady climb since Dec. 13, when the county had 73 people with active cases.
Although home antigen tests for COVID are now available, Hodson said the test only shows if a person is contagious.
“You’re probably more contagious the day before you have symptoms,” he said.
Marion County emergency medical service director Travis Parmley said the number of COVID patients the service has dealt with, and where ambulances have to take them, has surprised him.
He’s also been surprised at where other patients must be taken because many hospitals are too full.
A confused 75-year-old Marion woman was taken Friday to St. Luke by Hillsboro ambulance. Attendants asked about sending patients to McPherson Hospital but were told the hospital was accepting only McPherson County residents.
A 48-year-old Peabody man who may have suffered a second stroke ended up being taken to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita Saturday because Newton Medical Center said they would not take the patient.
“Newton Medical said they didn’t have any floor beds,” Parmley said. “I think the assumption is, the COVID beds were filled.”
On Sunday, EMS tried to take an unconscious 21-year-old with suspected COVID was taken from Hillsboro to St. Francis hospital in Wichita after the Newton hospital diverted the call.
“I think both Via Christi and Ascension are full and they’ve taken as many patients as they can,” Parmley said. “They are not at state-level diversion, but I think they’re all busy.”
A Burns woman reported to be extremely dehydrated by COVID was taken to Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital in El Dorado.
Parmley said he didn’t expect the situation to change soon.
“In general, we’re seeing more patients with difficulty breathing,” Parmley said. “I think we’re going to see an increase, from what I’ve read and what I’ve heard at the state level. It’s more than I expected.”
KDHE has updated isolation and quarantine guidance for health care workers in hospitals after recent changes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Guidance for other settings including correctional facilities, long-term care facilities, preschool, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities are being studied.
For the general population, new guidelines are that a person develops symptoms, they should get a test and stay home.
People with confirmed COVID infections, regardless of vaccination status, should stay home for five days.
If they have no symptoms or symptoms have resolved after 5 days and they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications, they may leave their houses, but should continue to wear a mask for five more days.
People who are fully vaccinated people who are close contacts of a person confirmed to have COVID don’t have to stay home but should wear a mask around others for 10 days.
People who are unvaccinated or whose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are more than six months old and who have not gotten booster shots, or who completed Johnson and Johnson vaccines more than two months ago and are not boosted should stay home five days and wear a mask for five additional days.